Off Center
I often hear call center managers boast about how extensive their new-hire and continuous training is, but then when I ask them how they formally measure the effectiveness of each method and module delivered, they look at me like I’m drunk or crazy. Often I am both, but that doesn’t make my question any less appropriate or important.   

Developing and delivering training is only half the battle. Call centers need to regularly track training’s impact and success. Doing so not only ensures continuous performance improvement and maximizes the organization’s training investment, it gives call center managers tangible training data they can present at industry events and in publications to make their industry peers feel vastly inferior. And isn’t that the real reason why most of you got into this business in the first place?

Accurately tracking new-hire training effectiveness is not as easy as it sounds, which is why I merely write about top call centers rather than manage one myself. However, in my time snooping around the industry, interviewing experts and analyzing training success, I have seen a host of organizations that do a spot-on job of measuring the impact that training has on immediate and long-term agent performance.

Here are several ways they go about it:

Written training tests. Top call centers develop written tests on training material and administer them… 
  • Before actual training is provided – to measure base-level proficiency prior to training.
  •  Just after training is provided – to measure training comprehension and initial skill/knowledge absorption.
  • Weeks or even months after the training has been provided – to measure the impact of daily headset shocks and customer insults on long-term memory.

On-the-job training assessments. These are focused performance evaluations designed to measure the application of specific skills and knowledge that agents totally ignored during training. As with written tests, many call centers first conduct such assessments (via role-play or simulation exercises) prior to delivering training to gauge skill level before instruction. Soon after training has been delivered, the real on-the-job assessments are carried out – sometimes via role-play/simulations, but usually while agents are panicking on actual calls.

Specific assessments are also conducted periodically well after training has been completed – not just to gauge how well agents have retained and are applying the skills/knowledge in question, but also because many supervisors are sadistic and like to see even their most experienced agents tremble.

Agent feedback. Measuring training success isn’t all about post-training tests and assessment scores. How agents themselves feel about the training received is critical, too – or at least you should make them think that. Soliciting agent feedback after training can shed ample light on why certain elements of training fail while others fail worse.

The best call centers ask agents about: Which training programs and delivery methods they found most impactful and engaging; which programs/methods they found superfluous; and which ones made them throw up a little in their own mouth. Agent input is captured and tracked to help spot common trends in training effectiveness and common problems that detract from agent development – mostly the latter. 

Customer feedback. Customers’ comments on post-call satisfaction surveys, along with their furious rants captured on call recordings, can also be helpful in highlighting training successes and shortcomings.

Sharp managers pay close attention to customer input in areas for which agents have recently received training. For example, if an agent who has just completed a special module on courteousness/professionalism receives numerous comments from customers about how rude and abrupt the agent was on the call, the manager/supervisor then knows that the training was highly ineffective. However, it could also simply be that the agent in question is a sociopath, in which case he or she should be moved into the IT department immediately.